Category Archives: AFI

Shayar Bhansali’s Editing on “Against Night” Earns International Recognition

Shayar Bhansali
“Against Night” team from left to right: editor Shayar Bhansali, Elena Caruso (actor), Stefan Kubicki (writer/director), Saba Zerehi (producer), Konstantin Lavysh (actor) and Lucas Lechowski (composer) at AFI Fest in Los Angeles

 

Getting his start as an editor in the world of narrative film with none other than the iconic India based production company, Yash Raj Films International, Shayar Bhansali seemed destined for greatness even at the very the beginning of his career. And, the international success he’s received over the last few years through his work on multi-award winning films including “Wild & Precious” and “Kicks” make it undeniably clear that he’s already made it to the top.

One of Bhansali’s recent projects as lead editor, and one that proves why he is such a sought after talent in the film industry, is “Against Night” from writer/director Stefan Kubicki.

Set in the 1960s, “Against Night” starring Konstantin Lavysh (“Five Days of War,” “Karaganda,” “Juke Box Hero”) as Vitali, multi-award winning actress Elena Caruso (“Paper,” “Cloverfield”) as Marina, and Eve Korchkov  (“Joseph,” “A Night at Christmas”) as Lenka, follows Vitali, a cosmonaut who crash lands in a seemingly desolate stretch of snow-covered land in Mongolia.

Climbing out of the small capsule, Vitali stumbles his way through the ostensibly endless miles of snow and nothingness in the midst of a blizzard until he finds himself at the door of a lamp lit yurt in the middle of nowhere. The home of a reticent and shaman-like man, once Vitali steps into the yurt, the real emotional drama and the film’s underlying story begins to reveal itself. As he drifts into a deep and feverish dream-state, Vitali’s present world intermixes, through a series of flashbacks that serve as a major source of plot development, with painful memories of the daughter and wife he lost in a tragic accident years prior.

“[The film] explores the relationship we have with time and memory,” explains Bhansali. “Part of the challenge with the project was to find a good handle on tone, and to be able to maintain the style and rhythm achieved by production through the edit.”

The numerous awards Bhansali earned from festivals across continents prove that he nailed the task with his work taking home the Festival Prize for Best Editing at India’s 2015 Kolkata International Film Festival and the LAIFF June Award for Best Editing from the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards.

Immediately drawing viewers in with a heart-pumping scene of Vitali and his co-pilot struggling to remain calm as their capsule malfunctions and begins to crash, Bhansali’s precise edits created a beautiful and dynamic rhythm for the unfolding story throughout the entirety of the film. Through his edits Bhansali provides the necessary pauses to allow viewers to really understand and feel the pain of Vitali’s loss when the emotional aspects of the dram are at their height.

While “Against Night” was shot with Russian dialogue, Bhansali admits that there were many similarities in his approach to editing regardless of the language. “I’ve worked with other languages before and the interesting thing for me is how similar the process is – I still spend a lot of time watching dailies and making decisions about performance, thinking about structure and the emotional rhythm of the piece and putting together a first cut within the time frame that’s expected for a project like this. The thing that’s a little different is how the director and I end up spending our time – initially a lot more of it was spent looking at dialogue delivery and sculpting performance.”

A film that has had an incredible impact on audiences, “Against Night” actors Konstantin Lavysh and Eve Korchkov earned the Best Actor and Best Actress Awards at the Long Island International Film Expo for their performances in the film. Aside from the awards Bhansali and the two lead actors earned for their work on the film, “Against Night” also won the Cinematic Achievement Award from THESS International Short Film Festival, the National Jury Award from the USA Film Festival, the Maverick Award and the Jury Prize from the Woodstock Film Festival, the Best Narrative Award from the Ojai Film Festival and several others.

You check out the trailer for the multi-award winning film “Against Night” edited by Shayar Bhansali below:

Some of Shayar Bhansali’s other work includes Mattson Tomlin’s drama “Persuasion,” Sahirr Sethhi’s “Zoya,” Shuming He’s comedy “La Bella” and the drama “Loveland.”

About the powerful force Bhansali brings to the table as an editor, “Persuasion” director Mattson Tomlin (whose film “Rene” Bhansali is currently editing) explains, “The work of the director, cinematographer, and the actors very often falls on the editor’s shoulders. A great editor is able to champion the best of the best performances and manipulate even those at their worst into something emotional and resonating. In the case of Mr. Bhansali, I have seen him time and time again act as both a problem solver and a treasure hunter, often finding the key moments to make a scene work in the most unintended places.”

Over the years Bhansali has proven his ability to tackle some of the most challenging stories and translate them into seamless visual productions through his precision as an editor. While he earned his master’s in film editing from AFI, he initially began his collegiate career many years ago studying psychology, something that has proven to be incredibly useful in his work as an editor because it allows him to understand the mindsets and emotions of the characters in the stories he creates with his edits.

“As filmmakers, I believe we are constantly working with the medium to guide the way our viewers feel – and to do this successfully one has to have to be sensitive to the way we think. I’m not sure I realized this at the time but my interest in psychology and the way our minds work definitely helped me shape emotions and characters,” explains Bhansali.

“Whether it’s a fictionalized post apocalyptic world with a robot as it’s protagonist or a based-on-reality story about a soldier fighting in WWII – the thing that makes these movies resonate with me is the humanity within the story and characters.”

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The Magician Behind the Scenes: Sunghwan Moon

smoon
Korean Film Editor Sunghwan Moon

 

No medium exhibits the importance of collaborating with a wide array of creative minds quite like film production. And possibly no other title at the center of this marvelous art form holds it all together like the position of an editor.

An actor’s rehearsed lines have no meaning without the editor’s contribution. The director’s constant input lacks any sort of importance or cohesion without the editor working his or his magic. And most importantly, the writer’s story has no discernible narrative if not for the hard work fashioned by the editor, which ties everyone’s work together in the final product.

Sunghwan Moon knows this better than anyone. His hard work, dedication, resilience, and knack for working well with others have helped establish him as a remarkable editor in the world of film and television.

It is no wonder that the Korean-born Moon was one of only 14 film editors selected annually to participate in the renowned American Film Institute (AFI) conservatory program.  His talents were quite apparent in the film and TV industries in Korea but once he moved to Los Angeles to attend AFI his career officially took off.

Attending AFI allowed Moon to build a significant and valuable network of relationships, including a couple of directors that would go on to provide him with some of the most challenging, yet satisfying jobs of his career to date.

One such film was director Kristine Namkung’s well-received romantic comedy Head Trauma. This film, which revolves around an Asian-American girl who gets a head injury and loses her ability to control her impulses, was right up Moon’s alley. The film’s simple yet elegant editing style helped gain attention noticed among festival goers including rave reviews at the Los Angeles Shorts Festival.

Shortly after receiving high praise for his work on the film, Moon’s successful momentum in the industry continued when he landed an editing position on writer-director Logan Sandler’s film Tracks. Starring Keith Stanfield (Straight Outta Compton, Selma) and Dominique Razon (Criminal Minds, Scorpion) the film follows the life of an amateur skater who is left to care for the young daughter of his girlfriend on the day of an important skateboard tournament.

“The director’s vision for this film was very clear…He and the DP shot the film in a way so that the camera looks at the main character all the time like a documentary,” says Moon.

In fact, in order to emulate the appropriate effect for Tracks, Moon reached out to veteran editor Nicholas Chaudeurge (Still Alice, Fish Tank) whose work inspired Moon’s editing on Tracks. His advice was immensely helpful and shortly thereafter they became close friends.

“I tried to respect how it was shot and edit accordingly. And this film got into many festivals around the world including this year’s AFI FEST,” adds Moon.

In addition to being chosen as an Official Selection of the Cambridge Film Festival, Rome International Film Festival, and the 24FPS International Short Film Festival where it received a Best Actor Award for Keith Stanfield’s performance.

“I’m happy that he won because a big part of editor’s job is to shape actors’ performance,” explains Moon.

.Moon’s precise edits coupled with the enthralling story and crafty camera work earned the film a Grand Jury Prize nomination at the 2015 AFI Fest.

Moon definitely understands the importance of paying close attention to the director’s vision of any project, as well as the DP’s shooting technique in order to properly accomplish the desired effect.

He says, “In general, I believe how the footage is shot tells you how to edit. The footage tells you how to cut.”

Some of Sunghwan Moon’s other films to date include The Confession, The Superman, Mrs. Alderman, The Lost Generation, Together Alone and many more. Through each of his projects as lead editor it is easy to see this truly talented editor’s intuitive relationship with footage and his ability to create a seamless story that fits the goal of the film, no matter how different one project is from the next.

 

 

Talented Film Director Explores the Effects of War Torn Societies Through Film

Onn Nir
                                                                                                       Film Director Onn Nir

Israeli film directing phenomenon Onn Nir is taking Los Angeles and the international film scene by storm with several award-winning projects under his belt. This coupled with his passion to tell humane stories that provoke change, and his direction of characters with great authenticity make Nir a sought after director, and one to keep your eye on.

Serving as a combat medic in the Israeli army led Onn Nir to his true calling as a visual storyteller, with strong roots in the psychology and emotions of the complex world in which we live. Focusing on the primary concepts of image, mood and emotion, Nir creates a sense of social realism through his camera work and creation of real time intensity.

“I am utterly intrigued by the here and now, especially during extreme circumstances that expose the behavior of the characters with great authenticity,” said Nir.

Believing the true mission of a film director is to enhance the story telling on the page by mixing thought provoking story lines and emotional characters; Nir stands out as a director with true vision and spirit.

Born Guilty, one of Nir’s early films, tells a complex story of fear and prejudice. The film’s examination of prejudice through the experience of an unconventional victim caught the eye of the international audience. Born Guilty received the esteemed National Board of Review award.

Pressure Point, Nir’s follow up to Born Guilty, depicts and examines the complexity of the Middle East through a simple, emotional circumstance. Shot in Nir’s native Israel, and featuring the beautiful Judea Desert as its’ backdrop, Pressure Point is a visual and emotional tour de force. The film, which starred acclaimed Israeli actor Danny Geva (Sweets, Marzipan Flowers, Ha-Hamama, Kalevet), was an Official Selection of the Hamptons International Film Festival and the St. Louis International Film Festival.

Onn Nir’s most recent film however, Bamidbar, is one of his most powerful project to date. The film received the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and was nominated for several awards at the renowned Shanghai International Film Festival and the Champs-Elysee Fesitval in France.

A tale of a father and daughter’s strained relationship, Nir’s Bamidbar explores the subject of trauma in a society of constant war as one character prepares to join the army and the other struggles to forget the experience he had in the war decades before.

Bamidbar is a progressively uncomfortable journey into loss and it’s consequences, a raw story about post trauma, and how one can heal from it in order to survive” said Nir.

Starring veteran Israeli actor Sabi Dorr, Bamidbar is a remarkable work of cinematic beauty that bravely depicts a psychologically complex relationship in a brutally honest way.

Nir has two hot new projects that he plans to begin production on very soon, The Drummers, and Kamel. The Drummers tells the harrowing tale of a lost US Army unit in Afghanistan. Following the real life exploits of famed Israeli spy Eli Cohen, Kamel is an intense thriller featuring the missions of the legendary spy. Onn Nir’s Kamel will no doubt prove an exciting tale of espionage in 60’s era Middle East.

Onn Nir is poised to take his work to the next level of cinema, and is truly an impressive and innovative filmmaker for our ever-changing society.

Editor Oliver Harwood turns Good Stories into Great Films

Editor Oliver Harwood
                                                                 Editor Oliver Harwood

Oliver Harwood understands better than most what it takes to turn a good story into a great story. His work spans the Atlantic, he’s been trained in one of the most exclusive and prestigious film schools in the world, and his talent has been essential to the success of an ever-growing list of award-winning films. So what does it take to make a good story great? It takes the keen eyes and ears of an editor.

Just this year, Share, a film edited by Harwood and directed by Pippa Bianco, premiered at the massive Austin-based SXSW 2015 festival where it won the Special Jury Recognition Award for Narrative Short. Share tells the story of a young girl’s return to school after being in a sex tape that gets shared online.

Harwood fell in love with film-editing inadvertently, when as a teenager he and a friend began filming their own comedy sketches. He became enthralled with cutting, splicing and arranging the clips, and in so doing found that the way stories are told on film come down to decisions made by the editor. Within a few short years, the young Brit was enrolled at the American Film Institute, known the world over for producing some of the biggest names in entertainment and filmmaking.

In 2013, Harwood edited Gala Goliani’s (What the Monkey Saw, Worship) film Red Rider, a dystopian thriller set eight years after a disaster turns the world into a wasteland. The intense action follows Adena, played by Abigail Wilson (Cigarette, The Half Man), as she roams the wastes seeking revenge on a vicious biker gang. A marvelous editing job to say the least, Harwood uses the character’s voice to narrate her thought process as she plans her mission, which gives viewers entry into her world without the overuse of dialogue to explain her plight.

The film was an Official Selection by several film festivals in 2014 including the San Jose International Short Film Festival, the La Femme International Film Festival and the NewFilmmakers New York Winter Festival. It also won the awards for Best Actor and Best Cinematographer at the Los Angeles New Wave Intl’ Film Festival.

After Red Rider, Harwood was tapped by director Leonard LoBiondo (Inheritance) to edit the film Reaver starring Kelly Blatz (Prom Night, 90210, Chicago Fire). A hair-raising chiller, Reaver is the haunting story of two siblings who come face-to-face with the evil specter that spirited-away their father. Reaver won the festival prize for Best Lovecraft Short at the 2014 A Night Of Horror Film Festival.

“Starting Reaver, I was pretty comfortable with myself as an editor, and was ready to experiment with my approach to collaborating with a director,” Harwood said.

A huge part of making a great film comes from knowing how to communicated and collaborate best with your fellow filmmakers. Harwood has been editing films long enough to what he needs to achieve the best possible film, and for him, that has to do with having his own space to create without someone looking over his shoulder. So, when it came time to start editing Reaver, Harwood suggested the use of a separate monitor where the director could view the progress without looking over his shoulder.

That decision really paid off. Harwood recalled, “It helped the director keep a better sense of perspective on the movie… he was much more able to astutely observe how much tension we could bring out from each shot, and how the following shot could be used to further enhance and build on that tension.”

Hot on the heels of Reaver, Harwood began work on Contrapelo in 2014. Directed by Gareth Dunnet Alcocer (Dig!, Exodo), Contrapelo was a huge change of scenery for Harwood. While the film’s dialogue was in Spanish, a language Harwood didn’t speak a word of, he managed not only to do the job, but to edit it into an awe-inspiring and gripping film. Contrapelo focuses on a cartel boss, a barber, a straight razor, and one of the most difficult decisions a person can be forced to make.

“Because I was unable to understand what was being said, I was able to decontextualize the line and turn the dialogue into something like music,” said Harwood, explaining that in a way the language barrier helped him with editing. “The rhythm and tone of the words being spoken helped me guide each cut based on feeling.”

The film’s recognitions included countless awards including Best Indie Short Film and the Audience Award at the 2014 Cine Gear Expo, the Best Short Awards from the Las Vegas International Film Festival and the Los Cortos International Film Festival, as well as nominations for Best Overall Short Film at the Calgary International Film Festival, the German Independence Award for Best Short Film at the 2014 Oldenburg Film Festival, and Best Narrative Short at the world-renowned Tribeca Film Festival.

Harwood’s mastery of his craft is the result of his incredible training, extensive experience and raw, innate talent. He possesses the rare skill to find the exact crossroads between technical genius and creative visionary. His work is certain to leave viewers not just satisfied with the cinematic experience, but contemplating some of the most serious issues facing the world today. And that, after all, is the difference between a good story, and a great story.

Talented Cinematographer Brings the Film “Dirty Laundry” To Life

Cinematographer Guy Pooles
             Cinematographer Guy Pooles shot by Michel Copeland Toft

A common theme among many Los Angeles transplants is a desire to make it big in one aspect or another of the film industry. Whether it is because they were a big fish in a small pond who have been told since they were young that they belong on camera, or they have worked their whole life to be accepted as a filmmaker in Hollywood, there is so much more to film than just being talented in one’s creative field; film is a collaboration between countless departments who must individually put their egos aside in favor of the story they are creating for the audience.

For internationally respected cinematographer Guy Pooles, this foundational aspect of filmmaking is basic knowledge; and, the process as a whole is something that allows for a level of fulfillment that far surpasses anything that stems from ego-driven motives.

According to Pooles, “Cinema is a fusion of many different art forms, from writing, to music, to costume design and so on. Good cinema is brought into being by every one of those crafts working in harmony to achieve a collective vision.”

An incredible asset to every production to which he lends his name, and believe me, there have been many as he has worked non-stop over the last five years in both the UK and the United States, Pooles is the kind of cinematographer who is not only able to bring stories to life in an extraordinary manner, but he is also heavily conscious of how is work will blend with the work of each and every other department in the final product, the mark of a true collaborative genius. He explains this necessary attitude toward filmmaking by saying, “If I’m too preoccupied with how I’m lighting a scene to notice how it destroys the subtlety of a set design, or how it distracts from an actor’s performance, then a couple of audience members might leave the cinema saying “I liked the lighting” but no one will be saying “I liked the film”.”

Originally from England, Guy Pooles reached international acclaim after working as the cinematographer on the film Dirty Laundry, which was released in 2013. Directed by Aaron Martinez (Substrata), Dirty Laundry received incredible praise, as well as an impressive list of awards last year at film festivals around the world. To name a few, Dirty Laundry garnered an award from the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, a Golden Starfish Award at the Hampton’s International Film Festival, as well as was an Official Selection at the BUSTER Children’s Film Festival Copenhagen, LA Shorts Fest and the DC Shorts Film Festival, and a Special Mention Award at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. Pooles was also honored on an individual level for his cinematography work on the film with the Linwood Dunn Heritage Award from the American Society of Cinematographers.

A beautifully shot film, Dirty Laundry follows a young boy named Sam (Zander Faden) as he traverses his beyond heartbreaking childhood full of real life bullies and those of which only he can see like that of the laundry monster. After Sam’s father abandons his family, and Sam’s mother falls into a dark and paralyzing depression, the young boy is forced to fend for himself on every level from the unrelenting bullies at school to the monster inside the ever piling dirty laundry within the basement. The level of collaboration and creativity that went into Dirty Laundry all the way down to the way the team managed to bring the laundry monster to life is staggering. Using miscellaneous clothing pieces, all of which were chosen by color and texture in order to fit the film’s palette, and a hand & rod puppet that required three performers to operate, they miraculously brought the laundry monster to life in a way that was not only believable, but frighteningly beautiful as well.

Shamim Seifzadeh, the production designer on Dirty Laundry, says, “I removed the common purpose from each piece of clothing, only to re-assign them to the monsters body parts. In the end, pants became the head; back pockets became his eyes; a zipper became his mouth; and socks became his fingers…. The final design concept became a giant, hunch-backed creature. His weight would not allow him to run fast but his sheer size made him intimidating. It is important to note that the Laundry Monster isn’t evil, but rather, misunderstood.”

Pooles used his expertise as the film’s cinematographer to create a dark and eerie atmosphere within the film that fully supports Sam’s mother’s debilitating depression and the cold world Sam lives in by using little, if any, artificial light. The film is shot solely from Sam’s point of view, a choice that posed challenges, but ultimately made Dirty Laundry a riveting masterpiece that allowed the audience to feel Sam’s struggle and experience his reality with little effort.

In reference to the technical cinematographic decisions that went into the film Pooles recalls, “Our first rule was that the camera would always be at the exact eye- height of Sam… This meant that when the other characters of the film towered over Sam in height, they were towering over the camera, and thus, the audience too. Another tool we utilized was to maintain the relative distance of objects and other characters. So if Sam sees something that’s on the other side of the room from him, the camera will then observe it from the other side of the room.”

While these elements combined to create the film’s general perspective as it unfolds before the audience, there was another more philosophical approach that went into providing the film with its capacity to touch the audience emotionally.

“The strongest tool we utilized was the notion of Pathetic Fallacy, where we render the world surrounding Sam, not how it would realistically appear, but rather how it feels to Sam. Examples of us doing this were: lighting each scene to feel de-saturated and overcast, helping the audience to feel the lack of warmth and colour in Sam’s life,” explains Pooles. “We would also often place Sam in a frame so that he was very small in relation to his empty environment, allowing the audience to understand the extent of the isolation that he feels.”

An even greater testament to this talented young Englishman’s auteur is the fact that Pooles wrote the film in addition to working as its cinematographer, no small feat, but one he seamlessly accomplished as proven by the shear number of awards the film received. Aside from Pooles’ work on Dirty Laundry, he has worked as the cinematographer on the films Happenstance, Martha, Jobe, What Must Be Done. What The Monkey Saw, Wake, Chronophobia, as well as the music video for Bryarly’s hit song ‘In The Bright Daylight’ and the documentary Best of The Pacific Northwest.

Guy Pooles is undoubtedly a cinematographer whose creative vision, backed by his highly specialized technical skills, will continue to impress for decades to come; and frankly, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!